SAINT LEO, Fla. – In a scrappy, hard-fought game on Wednesday night, the visiting University of Tampa Spartans walked away the victors with a 69-60 final score over Saint Leo in Sunshine State Conference action at the Marion Bowman Activities Center.
It would be a frustrating outcome for the Lions after Saint Leo (10-14, 1-13 SSC) held a 37-33 halftime lead and were shooting almost 90 percent from the free-throw line at one point in the second half.
Holding a slim margin early in the contest, Tampa (19-5, 8-5 SSC) would briefly surrender the lead to the Lions at the midway point of the first half, but would pull back ahead two minutes later. The Spartans would extend the advantage to as much as 29-21 with 5:17 left before the Lions sparked to life.
Consecutive 3-pointers from Quentin Cullop and Daniel Oliver had the Lions closing the gap and then an Allen Young layup put Saint Leo in front. Cullop, fouled behind the 3-point line, would drain all three of his free shots to widen the margin.
Finally, a Walter Perkins layup opened the margin to 37-33 but a full-court shot by Nate Johnson as time expired nearly fell true to really send the Lions into the lockers on a high note.
The advantage for the Lions out of the halftime was short-lived as a confusing stretch when players from each team were handed double-fouls and technical fouls, ended with Tampa holding possession and Callum Townsend 3-pointer cut the SLU lead to one.
From that point Saint Leo’s shooting touch would betray the Lions as Tampa would go on an 18-2 run. During that stretch, SLU would miss 11-of-12 free throw attempts and UT would open up a 53-41 lead with 12:21 left.
Trying to recover from the scoring slump, the Lions would cut the Spartan advantage to 57-52 with six minutes left, but another run by Tampa would shut the door on any SLU rallies.
Despite 10 different Saint Leo players registering at least one point, no one stood head-and-shoulders above the rest as only Perkins reached double-figures in scoring with 11 points. Selective in his shots, Perkins was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
As a team, the Lions out-shot their visitors from Tampa, with Saint Leo making 43 percent (20-of-47) of their shots while UT only connected on 35 percent (18-of-51) of their attempts. The Spartans would shoot 81 percent (25-of-31) from the free-throw line, while SLU would only make 63 percent (15-of-24) of their shots.
Rashad Callaway would score a game-high 30 points for the visitors, marking nearly half of Tampa’s entire scoring offense coming from one player.
Saint Leo will have less than 24 hours to rebound as the Lions will face Florida College on Thursday evening. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Conn Gymnasium on the FC campus in Temple Terrace, Fla.